Canada Post releases stamp honoring jazz legend Eleanor Collins
Canada Post has unveiled a new stamp honoring pioneering jazz singer Eleanor Collins.
A stamp depicting “Canada’s Jazz First Lady” was unveiled at a virtual ceremony on Friday, to honor her life and legacy ahead of Black History Month.
“How do I feel? I feel great and honored,” Collins said during the ceremony. “To actually have someone claim your work and life on a postage stamp, that’s something. There’s only one word for that. It’s surreal.”
The 102-year-old jazz legend was awarded the Order of Canada and has a star on BC’s Entertainment Walk of Fame.
“You know, at 102 years old, people don’t expect to be remembered. But I’m grateful,” she said.
Born in Edmonton to African-American and Native American parents, Collins began working as a singer after winning a local talent show at the age of 15. In the late 1930s, she moved to British Columbia and get into the jazz scene.
Throughout her career, Collins has performed on TV and radio, working with everyone from Montreal jazz pianist Oscar Peterson to American jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
Despite the opportunity to bring his talents to America, Collins kept his career in Canada. In 1955, she became the first black woman to headline a North American television show, with a starring role on “The Eleanor Show.”
Jazz musician Alan Matheson has long admired Collins and even had the opportunity to perform with her at a concert in the 1980s.
“The first thing that came to her mind was the amazing voice she had, but also her incredible versatility and sparkle as a performer,” he told. CTV News.
“It doesn’t matter if she’s singing Broadway tunes or folk music or jazz. She always sounds 100% herself.”
Singer-songwriter Krystle Dos Santos calls her an inspiration and describes her voice as “an absolute classic for jazz.”
“For me, she’s an absolute icon, and she broke a lot of ground for Black Canadian female musicians and Black women in general in this country,” she told CTV News. .
But despite his success, Collins faces discrimination both professionally and personally. In the 1940s, when Collins moved to an all-white neighborhood in Burnaby, BC with her husband and children, neighbors started a failed petition to prevent her family from moving in.
“When you’re asked to move out of your neighborhood, you have to have a completely different determination than your character to be able to live through such moments,” said Dos Santos.
“She has strength. She has talent. She has perseverance. She has class.”